I understand that we use "If I weren't..." in conditional sentences like

If I weren't busy, I would do XYZ

But what if I have a sentence like

I would not have done ABC if I wasn't/ weren't sure

I am not sure this sentence is conditional. I have heard only "If I wasn't sure" in sentences like above.

Which one is correct and/or natural? Are both of them correct?


This is one of those things where there is one thing that is technically correct, but there is a different thing that everyone actually says.

Those are both conditionals (the second one being past tense), and if you were to ask an English teacher, they would tell you that “weren’t” is the only correct answer for both.

On the other hand, if you were to ask a linguistics specialist, they would tell you that a language belongs to its speakers (not to some group of rule makers), and “wasn’t” is so widely used that it should be considered an acceptable variant.

I think most native speakers would say that they both sound right. If you are writing something formal and you want to be sure everyone thinks it’s correct, I would stick with “weren’t.” Depending on your opinions about language, some people would say that “wasn’t” is also acceptable (while others would say it isn’t).


If I were is used for unreals or hypotheticals - although (especially informally) "if I was" is often substituted for it.

However, If I was is correct for real, known or presumed conditions. Here, "were" feels wrong (perhaps a hypercorrection).

So if you can replace the word "If" with "Given that" or "Granted that" or "Assuming", then was is correct:

  • He insists she was there. If she was there, we can find her on the CCTV footage.
  • If she was there, why didn't she tell us?
  • If he was there, she was (= must have been) there with him.
  • I definitely saw everyone who passed by - so, although I don't remember seeing him, if he was there, I saw him (or must have seen him).

Going back to your sentence:

I would not have done ABC if I wasn't/ weren't sure

This reads to me like an unreal condition, making "weren't" at least as correct as "wasn't". Of course, a past unreal would more often be "...if I hadn't been sure", but "...if I wasn't/weren't sure" implies "and I am still sure now", whereas "if I hadn't been sure" could be read as suggesting "although I'm less sure now".

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